People often warn high school kids about social media. Those pictures you post may end up affecting which schools you get into or which jobs you get offered. It is a valid point. There is still stuff I posted online over thirty years ago that, if you know what you're looking for, you can find. This is different than some of the posts from my written journal thirty years ago that I started posting online.
About twelve years ago, I went to a group relations conference in Holland. There was one moment I particularly remember. The group consultants changed roles and became members of the group. One of them made a comment about being able to just blurt things out, without thinking about the effect their comments would have on the group.
It seems like many adults on Facebook don't post material that they will be embarrassed about when they are looking for their next job, but they still blurt things out, without thinking about the effect their posts will have. I've been thinking about this a lot since Sandy Hook.
I've tried to post more positive material; highlighting compassion, cooperation and creativity, and trying to avoid the more polarized posts. One blog post that I wrote about video games started a bit of a discussion on Facebook, and one hyper-partisan individual resorted to 'argumentum ad ridiculum'. Unfortunately, it made him look ridiculous and did nothing to move forward the discussion at hand.
Perhaps this becomes even more important if you are a public figure, as Rep. Hovey discovered this weekend.
Yet does sharing positive stories make a difference? Yesterday, I shared a post about the Orange Lions Club Annual Wine and Beer Tasting. It is a fundraiser helping the Lions combat blindness. One of the organizers thanked me for sharing it and I appreciated her kind words. Hopefully, it will get a few more people to attend the event.
Now this is not to say that all posts need to be promoting the public good. It is important to be real, to be authentic online. I've set up a Facebook List of CT State Legislators were I get a sense at what those legislators who have friended me on Facebook or have public figure pages are writing about. Sometimes, they root for football teams. Sometimes they play Farmville. Sometimes they post pictures of having dinner with friends and sometimes, they share posts that can have a positive impact on their friends and constituents..
I hope everyone tries to have at least some of their posts make a positive impact on the people around them.
After college, I moved into an old cinnamon factory with a bunch of aspiring artists in New York City to be a writer. I was most interested in writing poems and short stories. I also had dreams of writing a great novel, but end up writing mostly computer programs.
Fast forward three decades, and I'm sitting in a nice house in suburbia writing blog posts on a laptop computer; a writing implement and genre that didn't exist back in the spice factory days. My online writing style continues to evolve. There have been times that I've written daily, sometimes, not very eloquently, in an effort to hone my craft. Other times, I've just been too busy to write regularly.
I'm starting off 2013 with a good string of blog post, but I've got a busy week ahead. I have to get non-blog writing done for other projects as well.
I'm also spending time trying to find things to inspire me and stimulate my creativity. Yesterday, I ended up on Sarah Kay's Ted talk, If I should have a daughter …
It got me thinking. Should I start hitting some of the poetry open mics? Should I start writing some more poetic blog posts to be read allowed, and then make a video of me reading them which I could share on YouTube? NPR has been doing an interesting series of having poets visit their news room and write poems about the experience and the day's news. Could I do a spoken word poetic news recap, perhaps drawing from other experiments in creative news, from the Daily Show to Autotune the news?
For politics, could I, a former, and perhaps future, political candidate, deliver spoken word poetic stump speeches?
I hope to give some of this a shot, perhaps even today, Epiphany, if I get the time.
Recently, Matthew Katz, a social media savvy doctor I've become friends with put up a blog post, Defending Our Youth: No First Person Shooter Video Games. I've shared his blog post and there has been a very interesting discussion on the topic which I will try and summarize and add my own comments.
Dr. Katz wrote this as part of a larger opus dealing with gun violence from a public health framework. This is an important framework that we should be working within as we try to address issues of gun related violence in the United States.
Much of the discussion around gun control seems to be black and white thinking. Some are suggesting all guns should be illegalized and the second Amendment should be repealed. Others are suggesting that no new gun controls should be put in place, and instead, that more people should carry guns. It seems like the more reasonable viewpoint is somewhere in the middle, where access to certain types of guns should be made much more difficult.
Similarly, there is the discussion about video games. Some people call for banning video games. Others say absolutely not. Dr. Katz seems to come closer to a more reasonable middle ground by looking at access to a specific set of video games, first person shooter games.
I am a big proponent of gaming. I believe we should be using ramification to change many aspects of our society and I hope to write more about some of these ideas later. Games, like guns, are tools. They can be used a lot of different ways.
So, with that, let me get to some of the comments I received on my Facebook wall about Dr. Katz's blog post. Much of the discussion has been around different types of games, some not even video games. I played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons back in the 1970s. At that point, it was paper, pencils, dice and a lot of imagination. Yes, there was violence in the game, but it was a small part of the game. What mattered was creativity, problem solving, and collaboration; some of the twenty-first century skills I've been writing about.
My brother posted a link to a video about a Veterinary Medical Class that took place in Second Life. It is a fascinating video and a great illustration of the positive aspect of video game like activity. One person posted a link to the article, Ten-country comparison suggests there’s little or no link between video games and gun murders. Dr. Katz properly points out that this is a study of video games in general, and not violent video games, or even more specifically first person shooter games.
Yet I'll even go so far as to suggest that there can be some benefit to first person shooter games. Re-enactment of a traumatic event can be an important part of processing the horror, whether it be young kids playing with toy guns after Newtown, or veterans spending time in virtual worlds to learn to cope with PTSD. Perhaps the real question is, what are you getting out of the games you are playing.
This ties back to some of the discussions I've been having at the CT Health Foundation Health Leadership Fellows Program about intent and impact. What are you intending to get out of your games and what impact is it really having?
One intent may be simply to relax and unwind. That is an important thing to seek. The question becomes, is this the most effective way to relax and unwind? Are their other, unintended side effects that are detrimental? Might these detrimental side effects indicate there are other ways to relax and unwind that might be more beneficial?
I also like to come back to Jane McGonigal's TED talks about gaming. What sort of societal change is the gaming having? How is it affecting your resilience; mental, emotional, and social?
For the seventh grade boys playing first person shooter games, what sort of effect is that having? The research Dr. Katz talks about suggests it may not be all that beneficial. So, how do we address this? Do we ban first person shooter games? Do we make it harder for kids to access them? Do we put warning labels on them? Do we train parents, teachers and even doctors about them?
For example, my eleven year old daughter was asked at her latest physical about if she always wore her seat belt, if there were people around her that smoked, and if there were guns in any houses she went to. She was also asked about playing video games.
Now there are some people who have tried to prohibit doctors from asking their patients about gun safety, and I imagine if more doctors start asking about video game safety, that might get a similar response, but that is something that primary care providers interested in dealing with gun violence from a public health perspective could start asking patients about. It would be a simple start, without requiring new legislation. Twelve years ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics came out a Joint Statement on the Impact of Entertainment Violence on Children. As part of releasing that statement they stated they hoped to "encourage greater public and parental awareness of the harms of violent entertainment, and encourage a more honest dialogue about what can be done to enhance the health and well-being of America's children". It sure seems like such a dialog is long overdue.
After Boehner's Plan B failed, reliable sources have started talking about the possibility that Boehner might not be elected speaker of the 113th Congress. For example, Breitbart House Republican members circulate plan to oust Speaker and Wonkette has Scoop! Paul Ryan To Be Next House Speaker, According To Some Secret Random Dude Who Gossiped To Laura Ingraham.
The Breitbart article talks about having a secret ballot to see who would become speaker. Then, conservatives would abandon Boehner and in subsequent ballots, a true conservative could be elected. The people behind closed doors talk about the concern that Pelosi might get elected speaker, but dismisses saying that there wouldn't be seventeen Republicans that would cross the aisle to vote for her.
Yet there is a more interesting possibility. Let's imagine there is a secret vote, and Boehner doesn't get the speakership in the first ballot. It might be that he'd get it on a second ballot after the protest is registered. But, is there another option that might work? What if some moderate Republicans got together with some of the more conservative Democrats to form a "bipartisan governing coalition", similar to what happened in the New York State Senate?
Would a Republican who agrees to do away with the Hastert Rule have a chance at providing the sort of leadership that Boehner has failed to deliver? Are their members of congress from both sides of the aisle talking about what they might be able to do together if Boehner doesn't get re-elected as speaker of the house?
I don't recall the issue of gun control having come up during our debates in the last election cycle. There were many other issues that seemed much more important at the time, but with the recent shootings in Sandy Hook, I feel it is important for us to talk about this issue.
My father is a member of the NRA. I grew up shooting guns. My father was a black powder enthusiast. He had beautiful hand made black powder pistols. We made our own bullets and laboriously loaded the pistols. We would shoot in our backyard at tin cans not that far from where we stood. Most of these black powder pistols don't have great accuracy. These were the sort of arms that our founding fathers were acquainted with. Yet even with this, my father had a special license to purchase black powder.
We've come a long way since those days, and today's 'modern sporting rifles' are capable of firing hundreds of shots per minute from large magazine clips with considerable accuracy. These weapons are being used too often against our own people and we need to find better ways to control this.
My friends and relatives were among first responders who have had to deal with the horror in Sandy Hook. Others have lost loved ones, and many of my coworkers are helping people cope with the trauma. We need to make the most dangerous guns and their high capacity magazine clips harder for criminals to obtain.
Some will say that criminals will always have access to guns and making guns illegal will not prevent criminals from using them. To a certain extent this is true. However, thieves also break into locked houses, but that does not prevent people from locking their doors. We are unlikely to completely prevent criminals from getting guns, but we can, and should, make it harder for them.
Others point out to Israel as a country that allows gun ownership without having the same sort of gun violence that the United States has. However, I don't think the United States is ready for gun control on the level that Israel has.
Nonetheless, we do need better gun control, like was proposed in Sen. Gary LeBeau's bill SB-1094 in 2011 which would have prohibited the possession of certain ammunition feeding devices that accept more than ten rounds which did not make it out of the Judiciary Committee which you serve on.
In addition, I strongly encourage you to resign from the American Legislative Exchange Council and their Public Safety and Elections Task Force, which has pushed model legislation, like "Stand Your Ground" and the "Gun Owners' Privacy and Access to Health Care Act".
For our families, friends and neighbors, for those who are first responders, friends of victims, and who care for the traumatized, I urge you to take a strong stance in strengthening gun control in our state and to resign from the American Legislative Exchange Council.